That’s why it becomes necessary to give them the proper channels to address their grievances and concerns. Samuel Gompers perhaps summarised the importance of the unions best when he said: “The trade union movement represents the organised economic power of the workers… It is in reality the most potent and the most direct form of social insurance the workers can establish.”
In The Gambia, trade unions are sadly very powerless or voiceless to say the least. Usually the only time when trade unions are heard is at the May Day workers celebration. This doesn’t serve the needs of the workers because there are constant problems that need to be addressed and many times in cases like that it will take only trade unions to intervene to see to it that the issues militating against workers are redressed.
Trade unions rose out of a necessity that cannot be underestimated. At a time when capitalism was making huge profits and ever increasing wealth, the conditions of the working people deteriorated leading them to live wretched lives. That gave rise to slums and shanty towns because they couldn’t afford even decent shelters; the irony being they were the productive forces that were producing abundant wealth for those companies and corporations. It was out of this situation and social milieu that trade unions were born to pressure the bigger heads into giving the working class their just share of the wealth they helped produce.
Bearing this evolution of unionism in mind and seeing the constant court cases of employees and employers, which could have been addressed through a collective effort by unions and workers and collaborations with employers, it becomes evidently clear that our trade unions are not as productive as they should be.
The prices of commodities, the transport fares and so forth are constantly on the increase, while the salaries of the working people are very low and are not increased. Considering that most of the people in this country are either salary or wage earners, it would only be better if we have proactive unions that would lobby for the welfare of their members.
Trade unions actively engage not only stakeholders within the corporate or government leadership, but also traders to help bring equilibrium to the prices in the market. There is a strong possibility of radical changes in the market prices if they do their jobs.
Therefore, Gambian trade unions are called upon to revitalise and renew their efforts to bring about the desired changes. There have of course been some unions that have been fighting tooth and nail to protect the welfare of their members, the Gambia Press Union, is an example that spring too readily to mind, however the majority of workers continue to wallow in that abyss of insecurity and lack of basic rights from their employers, all because the major unions are not playing their rightful roles.]]>